Irish Champion Flat Trainer Aidan O’Brien has stated that the next fortnight is key as his Newmarket 2,000 Guineas favourite, Churchill, prepares to tackle a mile for the first time in the opening British Classic of the flat season.
O’Brien says his Dewhurst winner of 2016 has grown considerably and that the trip should not prove a problem to him in the first colts’ Classic:
“He’s doing everything unbelievably well at the moment. From this coming weekend it’s three weeks to the 2,000 Guineas, so the next two weeks will be key, but he’s doing unbelievable at the moment. He looks a different creature altogether. He’s big, he’s powerful, he has a good mind and he’s a great mover. He’s physically very big, but he’s not a big long yoke, he’s compact, strong and well made.”
Addressing the issue of last year’s Champion 2 year-old staying a mile during his three year old season, O’Brien explained:
“In terms of trip, I always thought he’d be fine at a mile and maybe up to a mile and a quarter. I wouldn’t be sure about a mile and a half for him, but his temperament will give him every chance if he’s ever asked to try it.”
Regarding another top Ballydoyle inmate, Caravaggio, a winner of the 2016 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, followed by the Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh, before missing the back-end of the season, O’Brien is not so confident he will stay a mile:
“He’s working great. We brought him to Naas to work the other day and he’s plenty fit so we didn’t feel we needed to do a lot more with him. We’re just not sure about him getting a mile. He’s a very fast, very quick horse. What is very unusual about him if you go back and watch footage of him is that when he quickens, he nearly knocks himself over.”
O’Brien continued: “A lot of those sprinters are about relentless speed, but this fella can really quicken. He has big shoulders, a big backside, a great head and he’s long too. Physically, he looks more like a sprinter. We are training him for the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) at the moment, but if we see anything that makes us think that asking him to try a mile is the wrong thing between now and then, we’ll run him elsewhere. He bends his knee a bit, but the ground probably isn’t a big issue for him and dirt would probably be fine for him too.”
During an interview with At The Races, Aidan O’Brien also mentioned that Yucatan and Capri, third and fourth in the Ballysax Stakes last weekend, would head for the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown, with Orderofthegarter heading for the Irish Guineas and Lancaster Bomber a possible for either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes.